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EAST CHICAGO, Ind. – After 16 negotiating sessions, Inland Employees Federal Credit Union and the United Steelworkers of America Local 2003-21 have reached another more vocal stalemate. At press time, union employees planned to rally in front of the credit union’s headquarters here. At issue are the health insurance premiums for the union’s 42 employees at the $134 million credit union, which serves a core group of steelworkers as members. The USWA is protesting a proposal, which would require staffers to contribute to the cost of family health insurance coverage. In the past Inland Employees FCU had covered not only 100% of all health insurance costs for employees and their dependants, but also retirees had free healthcare insurance for life. “Health care benefits are a national crisis and in these current economic times we are not financially able to bear the cost anymore,” said Inland Employees FCU President/CEO John Wohaldo. “We looked at the health plans of other credit unions in the area that also have USWA employees and our proposal is similar to what they have been offering their employees over the past 15 years. The union representatives gave a counteroffer of no more than $1 a month because anything more `would be embracing insurance participation and we don’t support that.’” According to Wohaldo, the proposal regarding health insurance will cover the employee 100% but have the employees contribute for spouses and children. Currently health insurance premiums for those 42 staffers cost the credit union $370,000 annually. The overall cost for the total of 62 employees at the credit union runs about $622,000 a year. “The union has been making statements and telling the public that we are not negotiating but there is another negotiating meeting scheduled for June 19 to reach a fair settlement,” said Wohaldo. “We are bringing in a federal mediator to assist and hopefully help resolve the issue.” Wohaldo says this was not an easy decision to make, but given the economic conditions the credit union simply cannot afford the increasing cost of covering the insurance. Wohaldo points out that the credit union’s starting salary remains the highest in the area at $12.50 per hour compared to others paying only $7 to $8 per hour; that each bargaining employee was given a 3% raise per the agreement from last year; and they will continue to be provided a “very lucrative defined retirement program.” “USWA Chief Negotiator Alexander Jacques stated that the union doesn’t negotiate through the press so I’m a little surprised that they would go to the local papers with this cause,” said Wohaldo. As of press time calls to USWA had not been returned. [email protected]

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